Who's On Your Fridge? On Your Desk? In Your Heart?

BlogHer Original Post

I was standing in my parents' kitchen eating cereal and staring into space, as I do, when my eyes landed on the refrigerator - and more specifically, the pictures on it.

And the magnets, and the invitations, and the um, business card for a particular blog that no one reads because I think they still think there's a secret password to get in and hey, who am I to correct that notion? But mostly it's the photos.

I don't know about your family, but ours could live in a mansion and every event would still end up centered in the kitchen, everyone on top of each other, telling and making stories, maybe even getting on each others' nerves in that old, familiar, wondrous way. So in some ways it's not surprising that you can find some of our heart on the fridge. It's not everyone and it's not everything that matters to us by any means, but it's a good idea of who and what does, and in its own way (and thanks to my mother, almost entirely) it's a work of art.

Towards the bottom, there is my grandfather's handwritten barbecue recipe and a happy picture of my late grandmother and great-aunt, sisters-in-law and lifelong friends. There are a couple of photos I have shot that my mother likes, pictures of my parents on vacation and my dad playing golf, my godson's senior picture and my sister and me with our cousin who is like our brother. The Wizard of Oz stuff is my fault and I'm also responsible for the Red Hot Chili Peppers in football helmets magnet - fan club swag (oh hush, have you never heard of pre-sale tickets?) that's been up there since I lived here and has never come down.

You'll see what we care about - travel, friends, our extended family, food, music, each other.

The best thing about pictures, and what I can see now has guided me as a photographer since the day I picked up a camera when I was a child, is the story they tell. ISO, shmISO. (Not really, it's just not the most important thing.) And what matters an awful lot about pictures to individuals and families, in my opinion, is not just the story itself but the way it's represented in your everyday life - the images you keep around you, and the effect that they have on you when you look at them daily in the spaces you inhabit.

We will talk soon about all of those years of stories crammed in boxes in your basement and spare room closet, oh yes we will.

I think sometimes we go on autopilot with this stuff, that we're not even conscious of it. The same pictures stay in frames, not updated or changed, moved around only to dust or so they won't knock you in the head when you have to move the television to find a lost dvd. We've maybe moved the same photos from office to office when changing jobs, haven't updated our desktop image in awhile, haven't bothered to get some of the better, newer photos printed out that highlight new hair or a ten-pound weight loss (or gain, ahem.)

Weddings and babies are not the only reason to go crazy with the new photos, I promise, although they are among the best excuses. The every day should not be overlooked.

Some environments cry for photographic reminders of other aspects of our stories. A few of my colleagues have their favorite views from vacation either over their desks or on their computer wallpaper, because sometimes you need to go to the Outer Banks or the Bahamas in your mind, let you lose it. My dogs are sadly long gone with no replacements yet but they are always with me on my office bookshelf. I have a few (safe for work) fun shots of myself with friends in my office, so my students know I'm not a droid, which somehow matters to me, and so I don't forget that I'm not, either.

I only change up my screensaver every few months, and I know it's possible to have a slideshow sort of thing but the truth is when I'm at my desk the computer is rarely idle long enough for me to care about it.

What is on your walls and surrounding you while you work and while you think? What images are on your refrigerator when you open it first thing in the morning? Does this matter to you at all? I'm curious.

I have this image of my grandmother's hands in my office, and after losing her earlier this year it might seem like a bummer but it's the opposite.

It has helped me to avoid denial, and I'm good at denial. It has given me pause before I've shot off an ill-advised e-mail or two. Turns out there's nothing like having your grandma's hands on your printer to keep your priorities straight when a low toner warning might make you lose your tiny little mind on an off day. It has kept her in my space, which is where, when I was honest with myself, I figured out that I needed her to actively be, at least for now. That's a big part of my story at the moment.

It changes, you see - and you know, even if you forgot you knew. I know my mom switches up the stuff on the fridge sometimes. New things get added and carefully subtracted over time. My grandfather's recipe showed up one day, out of nowhere, with the sauce stains and his careful handwriting. I joke about the business card but since I'm way past the age of crayon drawings and there aren't any kids around, it's the closest thing, I guess. Soon the holiday flyers and invitations and year-end pictures of our friends will take over.

I think that's good. The story changes, the images shift, and it only takes a little effort to keep them in our sights where we might need them the most.

This summer I bought some new frames and a hanging thingamajig that will allow me to display several 4x6 prints on a photographic mobile of sorts, something that will brighten up my office for the winter and allow me to rotate through more images at a time, there when I need them.

Now I just need to hang it up. ***********************************************************

My BlogHer Art & Design colleague and general all-around excellent friend Karen Walrond is using her powers for good as usual, hoping to brighten up rooms of kids at the Texas Children's Hospital this holiday season. Please visit her site and find out how you can contribute. She gave me some inspiration this morning along with my coffee and I'm thinking she'll do the same for you.

The Internet can be awesome. Let us help to make it so, in pictures.

I love, love love love this picture, Refrigerator Memories, from Sarah (sadandbeautiful) on Flickr. I don't even want to talk about it, other than to say that I loved the comment that "our fridges are little museum-shrines." I just want you to go and look at it, please.

Lindsey Lane at This and That posted a sweet poem last week called My Mother's Refrigerator for her mom who died earlier this year. "This is how love is, messy, chaotic, stuck together," yes.

I include A Fanciful Twist's office renovation photos solely for the shot of the photos hanging by clothespins halfway through the post. DIY doesn't mean complicated, and in less formal spaces personality is everything when it comes to displaying images. Case in point: check out Kelly's office at Porter House Designs for contrast.

Everyone has a different story, and although I'm completely biased, I believe that pictures can always help to tell it better, even - especially? - while we're living it. Yours? And yes, I'll take refrigerator pictures, please?

Family and photography contributing editor Laurie White writes at LaurieWrites, and posts way too many photos on Flickr.

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